For a beer blogger, I’ve been kind of a shut-in for the past
few weeks um months er two years. When I do get out into beers bars I don’t work at, one of the breweries I’ve been consistently enjoying is Berryessa Brewing. (website) (Facebook) Though I like tasting beer at the source, I’d never been to Berryessa’s brewery in Winters until this weekend, even though the taproom has been open since…*google*…2012. I suck.
Berryessa Brewing’s taproom is pretty much your dream beergarden, partially because Yolo county rent isn’t exactly what we’re used to in the Bay and the place is huge. Also because Berryessa’s beer lineup doesn’t have a loser in the bunch, only some styles you may like more than others. They even make two of my personal least favorite beer styles, California common and Baltic porter, surprisingly enjoyable. Their wet-hop beer, Freshie, may be the bestest, least chloryphyllin’ harvest brew this side of Yakima. Their double IPA, Double Tap, avoids all the usual DIPA pitfalls such as being a boozy, sticky mess and their session IPA, Mini Separation Anxiety, is so much more than the bitter water so many west coast breweries are bandwagoning up on lately. And bless any Americans that can provide me with a fresh English mild or legit Belgian Pale Ale, let alone both.
Basically, I have a jaded California beer palate. If you do too, a trip to Winters may be what you need to wake it up again.
One of the best parts of Berryessa’s tasting room is also one of the worst: imperial (20 ounce) pints of any beer style for $5. Toto, I don’t think we’re in San Francisco anymore. Fortunately, Berryessa makes several fantastic low-alcohol beers. Unfortunately, unless you’re intrepid enough to park your car downtown then walk or bike two miles back to it (I am!) or can find an Uber driver to come to a town of population 7000, someone in your group is going to have to drive a car after this trip to rural beer heaven. They do offer a sampler flight, so that’s great, but my one request to the powers that be would be a serving size somewhere in between a thimble and a bucket. In the meantime, remember three imperial pints is the same as five 12-ounce bottles. There’s a food truck to help keep you from death and $10 growler refills so you can take home the higher-intensity stuff (she says, thirstily eyeing the growler of Double Tap in the fridge).
I was there on a sunny and stupidly hot Saturday (Winters: more than 100 days of the year with highs of 90F or more!) and the place was fairly packed. An at times long but always orderly line moved efficiently — the one time I timed it, I got to the front in 6 minutes. My hatred of waiting in line for beer is well-documented but even I can’t get mad about that. The bartenders seemed to know what they were doing and I wish there’d been time to chat. And hey, the ghost of Bob Ross was behind the bar.
It was an appropriate atmosphere for the happy-looking kids running around — bonus multitasking points to the bearded dad in the Sriracha shirt dancing to the band with his two tots while drinking beer — but without giving off that unfortunate I’m-drinking-at-a-nursery-school vibe that family-friendly spaces sometimes inspire. You can bring your dog, too.
Bonus: Berryessa Gap Winery is such a literal stone’s throw from the brewery that I accidentally wandered into it checking my voicemail. If you’ve got that person in your life who prefers wine to beer, split the day in half and everyone’s happy. (No time for wine on this visit, but I’ve sampled some of their bottles in the past and was well pleased.)
If you like good beer and occasionally leaving your house, a drive to Berryessa Brewing is an awfully nice way to spend some of your weekend. And, sorry service industry folks, it must be a weekend: taproom hours are Friday 3-8pm and Saturday/Sunday noon-6pm. I got there from Richmond in barely an hour, but you’re in for a longer haul if you live in, say, San Leandro or Livermore. You should still go. Bring sunscreen and a hat. Enjoy.
FYI, they do 10oz pours for $3 a piece, so I’d say that’s a pretty happy medium.
If that is true I’m thrilled (if a little sad it’s not advertised as an option on the beer board). Thanks Casey!
Cool! Yes, I’m in one of those “he loves beer/she loves wine” relationships (although I love both), so this would work, but your point about getting a driver is well taken. I can only hit a brewery if there’s a decent outlet mall nearby (Heloooooo, Livermore!), and I’m guessing there isn’t a Marriott in Winters, so I’m not sure when I’ll ever make it up there.
Thanks for the scoop!